Next time you’re at the trailhead, check out what the other riders are wearing on their feet. You’ll notice that many of them have flat pedal mountain bike shoes, and you’ll see that they are all made by a small handful of brands.

But what is a flat pedal shoe, and how does it differ from a traditional shoe?

Flat pedal shoes are designed specifically to work with flat mountain bike pedals. They have flat rubber soles which provide a firm platform to grip the pedals. The outside of the shoe is made with durable material to protect your feet.

While the name might seem straightforward, there is more to flat pedal shoes than meets the eye. So let’s dive into it.

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What Is a Flat Pedal Mountain Bike Shoe?

A flat pedal shoe is a mountain-bike-specific shoe. It offers an incredible amount of grip, an element of shock absorption, protection from impacts and a tremendous amount of feel on the pedals. These characteristics are essential for riding technical trails.

Flat pedal mountain bike shoes are made up of a rubber sole, an inner sole, a footbed, a stiff plate, and some way of fastening them (either laces or a BOA mechanism). These elements can vary between models and manufacturers to give the shoe different characteristics.

The Flat Sole Explained

The flat rubber sole is what makes a flat pedal shoe unique. It is key to the incredible grip. 

The pins on the pedal dig into the grippy rubber, giving you an almost “clipped in” feeling. Yet you can still put a foot down when you need to.

You’ll notice that the rubber soles have specific tread patterns. The shapes help the pedal’s pins dig into the rubber, providing more grip.

The rubber on the soles is measured on the Durometer Shore A scale. Harder rubber has a higher number on the scale, which means it’s more durable than softer rubber. However, softer rubber gives you more grip and is commonly used on flat pedal mountain bike shoes.

 How Are Flat Pedal Shoes Different from Clipless Shoes?

Flat pedal and clipless mountain bike shoe
Flat pedal shoe next to a clipless shoe.

On the surface, flat pedal and clipless shoes will look identical. But the experience is drastically different.

Clipless shoes attach to your pedal via a recessed clipless within the sole of the shoe. To clip in, you simply force your cleat onto the pedal. Kicking your heel outwards unclips your shoe from the pedal.

Many riders prefer clipless pedals as they give you some advantages over flat pedal shoes. For example, the clips prevent you from blowing your foot off the pedal in technical sections, plus it makes pedaling more efficient since you can pull and push the pedal. 

However, clipless pedals can be scary to use and take a while to get used to. It’s tough to learn how to unclip, and most riders fall over in their first couple of rides. Further, jumping with clipless pedals is riskier since you cannot ditch the bike.

Flat Pedal Shoes vs. Skate Shoes

You’ve probably heard of or seen a flat pedal rider wearing skate shoes. It makes sense doesn’t it? They have a flat, grippy sole? 

While skate shoes and flat mountain bike shoes do share a lot of similarities, mountain bike shoes are drastically superior.

Skate shoes have grippy soles and are comfortable. However, they aren’t as durable as flat pedal shoes. They are also not as stiff. Mountain-bike-specific shoes have a stiff shank that prevents your foot from bending around the pedal.

If you’re new to mountain biking, skate shoes are a great option. They are cheap and will get you rolling. But as you progress, you will love the benefits of a flat pedal shoe.

Do You Need Flat Pedal Shoes?

If you are serious about mountain biking, you will love the benefits of a flat pedal shoe. You’ll be surprised how planted your feet stay on the pedals. The extra security will have you pushing your limits in no time.

Skate shoes are the next best option, but you should avoid hiking shoes with thick soles. Shoes with thick soles isolate you from the valuable input you get through the pedals.

Final Thoughts

There’s no doubt that a good pair of flat pedal shoes will enhance your experience on the bike. If you want more comfort and something that will boost your confidence, I recommend that you try some on for size.

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